DIOCESE OF LAFAYETTE LA
In the Diocese of Lafayette, records indicate that 15 of the 427 Diocesan priests who have served in the 52 years covered by the study are known to have offended against minors. There are 123 known victims. These events, widely publicized in our area for 20 years, involved terrible crimes against young and vulnerable people. The news was even more shocking when the crimes were perpetrated by priests. The events and the news coverage caused pain, shock, anger and shame. Many people in our Diocese have gotten over the shock and have been able to move on. Others, especially some victims and their families, are still in pain and need our prayers and assistance.
When wrongs are committed, apologies are in order. I take this opportunity to extend a sincere apology first and foremost to all victims and their families. Many have been deeply hurt by representatives of the Church. They have been hurt by perpetrators of abuse, and they have been hurt by the actions of Church officials, and sometimes by the lack of response. Sometimes, Church officials were unaware of the serious consequences of abuse or they may have been too concerned about the image of the Church.
At times they have been insensitive to the suffering of victims and their families. For all of these failures, I apologize. In the near future, I will send a letter to all known victims in the Diocese offering to visit with them and inviting them to contact the Diocesan Victims’ Assistant Coordinator, Ms. Carmer Falgout, to discuss future healing and other concerns they may have. Ms. Falgout may be reached at 337-235-5749.
I recognize, too, that parishioners, especially in parishes where abuse has taken place, have suffered as well. I apologize to the people of the Diocese for the acts of abuse and for the failures of Church leaders.
Over the past 20 years, much has been learned about abuse and the proper response when it occurs. Much has been learned about steps which can help to prevent abuse from occurring. For years, the policy in the Diocese of Lafayette has been to offer counseling to all who claim to be victims. When allegations of abuse by a cleric (priest or deacon) are received, an investigation is initiated. There are other steps, but if the allegation is determined to be true, he is permanently removed from ministry.
Removal of offending clerics has been the practice of bishops in the Diocese of Lafayette for 20 years. Since the experience with Gilbert Gauthe in the late 70’s and early 80’s, no cleric known to have offended has been returned to service. Of the 15 known offenders, four are deceased, one is no longer a priest and ten are no longer serving in ministry. It should be pointed out as well that the Diocese knows of no act of abuse by clerics that may have occurred since 1984.
The Diocese of Lafayette is committed to the prevention of future abuse. Much has been published in recent months about the Diocesan Safe Environment Program and its many aspects, including criminal background checks for all priests and deacons and for all employees and volunteers who have regular contact with children. The Diocesan Office of Human Resources has submitted 4,332 requests for criminal background checks. Approximately 4,000 have been processed and returned to the office. This does not include Catholic school employees who are required by law to submit fingerprints and to undergo criminal background checks. The Diocesan Safe Environment Program includes educational sessions for clergy, employees, parents, volunteers, and children.
To date, approximately 9,000 persons have received such training in the Diocese of Lafayette. The program includes information on the obligation of those who work with children to report to civil authorities when they have reason to believe that abuse has taken place. Through these and other efforts, everyone is becoming more aware of the serious nature of abuse of minors and of the need to be vigilant.
In addition to the human suffering, there has been a monetary component. In the Diocese of Lafayette $26,069,312.00 have been spent. Of this amount, 96 percent was paid by insurance. The Diocese did suffer some loss of funds held in reserve for future needs, but no Bishop’s Services Appeal funds were ever used. We should all be aware that it has cost the Diocese. However, the losses have not materially affected the operations of the Diocese and its parishes.
I have mentioned the pain endured by victims and their families and by the people of the Diocese. It should be recognized that priests, deacons and those who work for the Church have also experienced sadness and embarrassment. Many good priests, in particular, have felt that they were under suspicion. Some have felt betrayed by this small percentage of their brothers who have offended. On the other hand, many priests have also experienced great support from parishioners who continue to trust and to work alongside them. I have great respect for the priests of the Diocese who have served faithfully for years and who continue to do so when circumstances may be very difficult.
Finally, I ask everyone’s prayers. I ask prayers for the victims and their families. Let us pray for their healing. Let us pray for the clergy and faithful of the Diocese who have endured much. Let us pray also for the priests who have offended, for the grace of repentance, for healing and rehabilitation. It should be acknowledged that many have traveled that road and remain in recovery. I believe that the Diocese as a whole has for years been in the process of healing. Let us pray that the process will continue even as we take more steps to ensure a safe environment for children and young people. We place ourselves in the loving hands of our God and humbly seek the powerful intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who, under the title of the Immaculate Conception, is the patroness of the Diocese.
DIOCESE OF LAFAYETTE
Number of persons trained: 9,050*
Background checks for all diocesan and parish clergy, lay employees and
volunteers are processed through the Office of Human Resources. Background
checks for Catholic school employees and volunteers are tracked through
the Office of Catholic Schools.
These training sessions are for clergy, lay employees and volunteers of the Diocese of Lafayette that have contact or work with minors.
At each training session, participants are made aware of the Bishop's
policy for "A Safe Environment for the Protection of Children and
Young People". They then view a video provided by the Boy Scouts
of America. The following documents are also reviewed, with a copy provided
to each participant:
The policy also mandates that parishes and schools are to provide education sessions for parents/other adults and minors.
All clergy, lay employees and volunteers who have contact or work with
minors are required to participate in a 1-hour continuing education session
each calendar year.
The diocese and its insurers paid about $26 million in claims filed by the victims, according to a study of priest sexual abuse funded by the church. The report said 427 priests served in the diocese in the period covered by the report.
At a news conference, Bishop Michael Jarrell said he would contact all the victims to offer the diocese's help. He apologized to the victims and the 31,000 Catholics in the diocese "for the acts of abuse and the failures of church leaders."
"When wrongs are committed, apologies are in order," he said, and offered a "sincere apology, first and foremost, to the victims and their families."
The figures released Wednesday were taken from priest personnel files, said the bishop, who acknowledged he isn't sure there aren't more victims, offenders and accounts of abuse that weren't reported.
"I didn't look at each case individually," Jarrell said.
Insurance providers paid about 96 percent of the $26 million, Jarrell said, leaving the diocese to pay $947,895 from its general fund supported mainly by weekly collections.
According to Jarrell's written statement, $24.3 million went to compensate victims. The rest went to victim counseling, legal fees and treatment for priests.
The study was conducted in accordance with the Church's "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People." National results are to be released later this month.
David Clohessy of St. Louis, Mo., national director for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, called the statistics suspect. He said the national study is being compiled by an outside agency funded by the U.S. Roman Catholic Church.
"It's a self-serving, self survey. What incentive do they have to tell the truth? But any information is better than none, even suspect information."
Any original material on these pages is copyright © BishopAccountability.org 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.
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